Facebook: The critical Mass

With the chaotic traffic of voices around us, acting like a magnet to our moral compasses, there has never been a greater necessity to be more in tune with our own judgements and ideals before we embrace others.

As you descend the escalators at Cairo International Airport, the words of a proudly positioned poster are emphatically revealed. ‘We must educate our children to become like young Egyptian people…’ This is the poignant message of Barak Obama, in February 2011, following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year dictatorship.

On 17th December 2010, Mohamed Bouzizi, a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, in protest of the harassment he reported to have endured from a civic official. The action quite symbolically ignited the Middle East’s peoples’ fight for democracy and improved governance. From Sana’a to Damascus and Algiers to Baghdad, the baton of revolution was passed on. We moved into an age where the enemy was not another political state, but the people’s own state. Questioning one’s economic circumstance and struggles rather than accepting it became a norm.

What differentiates this revolution is how the battleground has been altered by what are now slowly becoming the bad boy pin-ups for democracy, Twitter and Facebook. The Chinese government were quick to notice the potential powers of social media and were quick to ban all access to Facebook in 2008. As word of revolt spread in Egypt, the Egyptian government effectively withdrew citizens from the internet, blocking Facebook and Twitter in late January 2011. They went one step further on January 28th 2011, the ‘Friday of Rage,’ by shutting down the country’s mobile phone signal.

Mark Zuckerburg would perhaps barely believe the power of his creation. The impact of any idea or concept relies on how quickly it can be replicated and transmitted, but primarily on how universal the idea actual is. Then a critical mass is reached.

In social dynamics, a critical mass is defined as the ‘threshold value of the number of people required to trigger a phenomenon by the exchange of ideas.’ To some extent we are all part of a critical mass in the everyday social norms we adhere to. In the case of the Arab Spring, many already had torrid experiences residing under dictatorial governance.  Social media then filled the gap, by making each individual part of a wider group, bringing them empowerment and then allowing voices and opinions to spread.

On February 6th 2011 as Egyptian Christians held Sunday Mass in Tahrir Square, Cairo-Muslims in quite iconic fashion, created a protective human ring around them, covering them from government fire. A unified message for democracy had been created, where factions and tensions used to lie. The power of the people is only sufficient when combined; social media aided this amalgamation, and helped to create an opposition with enough voice to overthrow Mubarak.

Facebook and Twitter play an increasing role in how we perceive the world around us. Never has the flow of ideas and opinions been so great.  History is littered with examples of inventions, wars, genocide and triumphs where a common idea has replicated.  Where social media has fought for democracy in the Arab Spring, and continues to do so, it can also become a breeding ground for hatred and xenophobia.

Drawing on the anti-Semitic propaganda the Nazi’s spread in the 1930s, the belief that the Jewish community were at fault for Germany’s maladies became widespread. It becomes hard to believe that less than 80 years ago, this brutal critical mass was reached, at such a stage of our socio-cultural development as a human race, and especially given the then relative lack of media, compared to what we are now accustomed to.

Twitter and Facebook keep us tuned in, as does the array of media around us. Despite the expanse of information available to us- we need to increase our ability to question, discern and dissect what we hear. Only then can we create an effective critical mass, with a message we could be as proud to convey as the Egyptians. Image


5 thoughts on “Facebook: The critical Mass”

  1. Well written. Unfortunately for the Syrians, the use of social media is not a shield from the high powered weapons their own government wantonly uses on them. All they can do is run from their country and hope someday there will be something left to return to.

  2. This is magnificent. I was talking to friends about Facebook power and say it was good and bad. Very alert points and like science- we are science and science is life.

    Do you think Hosni Mubarak read this? Yah new topic Tej Parikh!
    Wonderful and well done.

  3. Interesting. What we know is based on information we receive- hot topics are momentary which are accentuated by whatever happens to be the craze at the moment (whatever is ‘trending’). But pause. What is it we are being told? 24 hour news doesn’t make us more informed but rather adds complacency- ie news is rolling/continuous and thus transitory and not worth reflecting upon.
    By us apparently knowing more- what does it do to us? Future generations may look back and say ‘oh weren’t they well informed’. Perhaps they will say, ‘no, they were the most ignorant of all. They thought they had knowledge in tap, but to no avail’. Too much knowledge can breed ignorance.

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